Potions

I woke in the middle of the night with sharp pangs in my vagina and uterus. In a haze I remember thinking to myself: "I'm birthing a devil." In the darkness, in crippling, mind-numbing pain. I sat on the toilet in case that position would relieve me, in case I was going to start bleeding a rotten apple. But there was nothing and I lay in bed for a long time, body cramping, breathing, as I waited for the pain to subside. The next evening I discharged a mountain of cottage cheese and I knew it was a yeast infection.

The infamous vaginitis must be treated with probiotics to balance the pH down there. According to "Our Bodies Ourselves" and, of course, the Internet, yogurt, cayenne pepper, ginger, tea tree oil, and garlic work. The cure is chemistry. 

Some women online wrote over and over again how hippie they were, how they didn't like taking pills and putting all that into their bodies. As if they needed to apologize for the witchery they were about to divulge. As if it was crazy for them to want to know themselves, and treat for themselves the chemistry of their own bodies. Owning a body means owning it in illness. Not giving it, in fear, to someone else.*

As I chopped up the garlic and the cayenne pepper into a dish of yogurt I wondered if this remedy was a crock. I thought about both of the antagonists in the films that I went to over the weekend. "My Cousin Rachel," an Edwardian thriller adapted for film from a novel by Daphne du Maurier, who wrote novels about strange and ghostlike or otherwise evil women. And "Wonder Woman," the DC superhero who was written by William Moulton Marston, a psychologist and bigot who was also, ironically, very involved with the feminist movement.

Two dark haired women with olive completions, two dark haired women who are master chemists confounding the patriarchy.

The antagonist in Wonder Woman is nicknamed Dr. Poison. She is the creator a gas that is fatal even with the protection of a gas mask. Historically the most horrific form of death in war has been the use of deadly gas. Many of these forms of gases were invented in World War I with the invention of mustard gas. I was surprised this would be in the film considering how horrible the connotations of gas are as you continue to World War II. But the significance is telling in the context of the cultural significance tied with women fighting war. Women's strength does not stereotypically lie in brute force, but by the very breath, with words, with arsenic, witches use potions: a woman’s weapon is poison, again, a mysterious conglomeration of substances that heal or kill. In My Cousin Rachel the very ingredients she uses drive the male mad, but also lead her to her own destruction. Somehow we still can’t bear for a female to know and use the elements of nature to create for meaningful growth.

Wonder Woman won the way a man would win, brutally, physically. However, can we not recognize the power of the chemist whose knowledge was made cheap in the face of amazing physical force? Can a woman be separated from her body and engage in a powerful way, her intellect. In the case of My Cousin Rachel. Can she not master the power of the natural world surrounding us.

Wonder Woman was uplifting on many levels. I loved to see how physically strong Wonder Woman was, and intelligent, withstanding. But the chemistry of elements has a strong force that is entirely undermined throughout the film. Indeed, the heroine of My Cousin Rachel also faces a deadly end. Both women are referred to as witches, unloving, and using of natural elements to create their desires and by these means, evil.

*unless it’s a serious case of course.